In a very familiar incident in John 12, we have a stark contrast between two
individuals and two attitudes. Jesus and His apostles were in Bethany at the
house of Simon the leper (Matt. 26:6). Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were also with them. It is then that Mary decided to do something very profound. “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (John 12:3) Judas’ reaction was one that many would have had, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5) A denarii was the equivalent of a day’s common labor (cf. Matt. 20:9). At minimum wage, this would put the current day value of the perfume at almost $20,000.
At first glance, the way we tend to judge people today, we would label Mary as wasteful and Judas as practical. But let’s dig a little deeper into the account. John’s inspired commentary on the account follows by stating of Judas, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” (John 12:6) And Jesus, knowing Mary’s and Judas’ hearts and intentions said of Mary, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.” (John 12:7) Matthew’s account also has Jesus saying of Mary, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me.” (Matt. 26:10)
So, let’s take a look and truly contrast Judas and Mary, with the information the Scriptures give:
* Judas was greedy, but Mary was generous and sacrificial.
* Judas used deception, but Mary was open and sincere.
* Judas outwardly appeared righteous, but Mary used outward actions to
show her devotion.
This begs a question for us to note. Who are we more like? Many appear religious, but inwardly are corrupt. The truly righteous are sincere inside and truly show it on the outside. Luke tells us that immediately after this incident Satan entered Judas, who then accepted the chief priests’ offer of just 30 pieces of silver to betray our Savior (Luke 22:3-6; cf. Matt. 26:14-16). What a contrast between Mary who anointed Jesus with ointment worth a nearly year’s wages, and Judas who betrayed him for a relative pittance.
Who are you more like?